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Improve Your Home’s Water Quality

FotorCreated-(1).jpgDoes your tap water taste bad? Does your water have a smell? Tired of buying bottled water? Improving your home’s water quality could be simpler than you think!

First things first. What's in your tap water?
There's a range of contaminants that can enter the municipal water supply, some at its source, and others during the treatment process or as it travels through the pipes in your home.

Contaminants may include:
  • Microbes, such as bacteria and viruses, from sewage systems or other human/animal contact.
  • Pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers used in agriculture and commercial/residential land care.
  • Pollution from urban storm water and street de-icing products.
  • Chemical runoff from factories, refineries, mining facilities, and other industry.
  • Pharmaceuticals that haven't been disposed of properly.
  • Metals, salts, minerals, and other sediment from the soil.
  • Radioactive materials, either naturally occurring (such as radon) or industrial byproducts.
  • Additives used in the water treatment process, such as chlorine and fluoride.
Municipalities typically remediate and test for dangerous levels of water contaminants. You may receive regular water quality reports in the mail, but they're also available online. Search for your area's report via the EPA’s website

Knowing what is in your water may help you decide what, if anything, you’d like to do to improve it. But, keep in mind that your water’s taste or smell may not be an indication of its healthfulness. Bad-tasting water may not be harmful; clean-tasting water might not be safe.

My water isn't too bad. Are there low/no cost ways to improve water quality?
Little changes in your plumbing maintenance or use can make a difference in your water quality. These tips may help if you're mostly satisfied with your water’s quality, or are looking for ways to keep it from getting worse.
  • If you haven't used the tap in several hours, try running it for a few minutes to flush the water that's been stagnating in your pipes.
  • Don't use hot tap water for drinking or cooking. The heat can cause sediment in your pipes to dissolve and release microbes and other undesirable materials, like lead and copper.
  • Clean and replace faucet aerators and/or filter cartridges regularly.
  • Drain your water heater tank regularly to avoid sediment buildup.
Little changes won't cut it. I need to do something to improve my water quality.
Depending on what you're trying to remove from your water, your household’s daily water needs, your budget, and your living situation (renters may not be able to make plumbing changes, for example) you may have a variety of water treatment options.

Water treatment methods
Just as there are different types of water contaminants, there are different ways to remove or neutralize them. Systems may use one or methods, so check the label of any product you're considering and make sure it’s designed to handle the water problem you’re trying to solve.
  • Filters work by trapping sediment and other debris while allowing water to pass through small holes or pores in the filter. With this method, you may be able to improve the taste and smell of your water and reduce the amount of some contaminants. Decrease the size of the pores and add multiple filtration stages to remove even more impurities.
  • Reverse-osmosis systems work in a similar way, but the holes in the filtering membrane are only the size of water molecules. More and smaller contaminants can be removed this way, but you may create more water waste in the process.
  • Distillation systems purify water by heating it, then collecting the condensation. Impurities are left behind when the water evaporates.
  • Ion exchange, often called water softening, replaces undesirable minerals like calcium and magnesium with less damaging ones, like sodium. This is a good choice if you're only interested in preventing hard water problems, like scaling, water spots, and poor lathering in the laundry or shower.
  • UV light treatment can kill bacteria, viruses, and other microbes.
The NSF®, an independent agency which certifies water treatment products, has a useful tool to help you identify which type of treatment should work for each type of contaminant.

Equipment styles
Once you’ve decided what kind of water treatment you’d like to pursue, you may have a few options for implementation. 

Point-of-use systems
This equipment works only at the point where you’ll use the water. In general, point-of-use products have a lower upfront cost, but may require more maintenance and ongoing costs (such as replacement filters). You may also be limited in how much water you can expect to filter at one time.

Examples include:
  • Water bottles, pitchers, or carafes with filtration tops
  • Tap-mounted or faucet-integrated filters
  • Countertop treatment systems
  • Under-sink systems
  • Water/ice dispenser filters
Whole-house water purification
If you’d like to improve the quality of all the water in your home, not just the water from a specific tap or device, you might consider installing a whole-house water purifier.
Whole-house systems may require a greater initial investment, but they don't demand as much upkeep, and can handle typical household water demands. You may even find cleaner water helps extend the life of your water-using appliances, plumbing and water heater. 
Have questions? Contact ARS®/Rescue Rooter® at 1-800-277-9400 for more information about our plumbing installation services, including whole-house water purifiers and soft-water loops!

Searching for more knowledge to boost your indoor comfort? Sign up for our email newsletter and you'll receive expert tips and advice from our HVAC & plumbing pros. Plus when you sign-up. you'll be entered into a drawing to win a FREE 50 Gallon Gas or Electric Water Heater!

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